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Norwin boys use clutch free-throw shooting to hold off McKeesport

| Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

Norwin used some down time during the holiday break to work on the finer points of its game.

Apparently, foul shooting was on the list.

Curtis Perz scored 21 points, and Norwin, which didn't participate in a Christmas-break boys basketball tournament, hit six consecutive free throws in the final 1:07 to hold off visiting McKeesport, 67-63, on Thursday night in a WPIAL Class AAAA nonsection game.

“We had some extra time and we used it to focus hard on our offense,” Norwin coach Lynn Washowich said. “It looked a lot better tonight than it has in some of our games.”

The foul shooting gained some momentum, too. Norwin finished 15 for 23 from the line, but was 12 for 14 in the second half, including 8 for 8 in the fourth quarter.

Zach Bryan added 18 points, including four free throws during the critical stretch — two with 9.1 seconds left to seal the victory — for Norwin (5-5), which won its third game in a row.

McKeesport (3-6) has lost four by four points or fewer.

“We'll keep trying to figure it out,” McKeesport coach Corey Gadson said. “It's very frustrating.”

Norwin played just one game during a 10-day stretch — a 63-56 victory over Class AAA Greensburg Salem on Dec. 23 — and Washowich used the extra practice time as a camp atmosphere.

“We probably should have worked on our defense, too,” said Washowich, a McKeesport native whose parents still live in the city. “We had trouble stopping them in transition.

“It was a game of runs. At one point, it looked like we were going to put them away. Then, all of a sudden, they're up by four.”

McKeesport trailed Norwin, 19-7, early on but managed to hold a 36-35 halftime lead on the strength of a 13-1 run to start the second quarter.

Norwin built a 49-39 advantage on a tip-in by Alex Haas with 3:58 left in the third quarter before McKeesport stormed back in the fourth and went ahead 55-54 on a basket by Khalil Perdue with 4:01 to go.

The Tigers' lead reached 58-54 on 1 of 2 free throws by William Gadson before Perz sank his third 3-pointer of the game to cut the deficit to 58-57.

Logan Deri's layup knotted the score at 61-61, then Bryan hit a pair of free throws with 1:07 left to give Norwin the lead for good 63-61, and the Knights, with the help of their accuracy at the free-throw line, stayed one step of ahead of the Tigers the rest of the way.

Perdue led McKeesport with 21 points and Gadson added 14 for the Tigers, who host winless Woodland Hills (0-9) Friday night in a Section 2-AAAA game.

“Every team is so even, it seems,” Corey Gadson said. “We keep making little mistakes at critical times. We forget plays. You have to come to play every night.”

Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dmackall@tribweb.com.

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